We took our holiday decorations down today. I like to leave them up through as much of Christmas (which is technically 12 days, until Epiphany on 6 January) as possible, but I usually will take them down the weekend before Christmas ends because it's just a time consuming task that I don't want to do after work. This year my daughter helped, and while we put the Nativity scene away she wanted to hear the Christmas story again. So this is the story I tell her:
G-D decided he needed to show people how much he loved them, because people just didn't understand. So he went to a very young, poor girl named Mary and told her he had a wonderful plan, but that he would need her help. He wanted to be born as a human to show people how much he loves them and he needed a Mommy here on earth. Mary was scared, but she loved G-D and wanted to obey him and so she said yes. Mary loved a good man named Joseph who loved her as well, and they were going to be married. G-D spoke to Joseph too and told him about G-D's plan and asked Joseph to be his Daddy and Joseph said yes. So Mary and Joseph got ready to have a very special baby. But then a king told them they had to pay some taxes, and they couldn't do it at home. They had to travel far away to a city called Bethlehem, and it was a long hard journey far away from their home and their friends and family. When they got to Bethlehem there was no room for them anywhere. No one had any room for them and finally someone told them they could sleep in the stable with the animals. It was cold and dark and it smelled bad but that's where they had to sleep and that's where Mary had her baby, who was baby Jesus. She didn't have his crib or any of the things she and Joseph had gotten ready for the baby so she had to wrap him in some old clothes and put him in a feeding trough so he would have a safe place to sleep. That night an angel appeared to some shepherds nearby and told them not to be afraid, and told them all about the special baby who was G-D born here on earth. Then a choir of angels appeared and sang. When the angels left the shepherds went and found baby Jesus right where the angels told them he would be and then they went away and told their friends. Some wise kings from another country saw a special star and knew G-D was doing something amazing, so they came looking for the special baby. They followed the star and stopped in Jerusalem to ask for directions. King Herod, who was a bad king, told them to look in Bethlehem but planned to hurt the baby Jesus. The kings went to Bethlehem and found Jesus and his parents and gave Jesus some special presents, just like we give gifts at Christmas. Then they went away by another road because they knew Herod wanted to hurt baby Jesus. An angel came and spoke to Joseph and warned him that the bad king wanted to hurt Jesus, so Joseph took his family far away. They came back later, when Jesus was older, and Jesus grew up to be wise and strong and good and showed us all how much G-D loves each of us.
Which I think is a pretty good version of the Christmas story for a three year old. I'm trying to cover the important points and keep it honest. But wouldn't you know, of all that detail what she picks up on is that there is a bad king. Each time I tell the story the question she asks is "Why is he a bad king?" I'd rather she focus on Jesus, or Mary, or Joseph, or really anyone else. I don't really want to tell her about all the terrible things Herod did, about the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem or all the other people he killed. We've been talking about death recently because our cat died and she's having enough trouble with that. I don't want to overload her. So I told her "He's bad because he's jealous and selfish. He doesn't want to share what he has. He loves his power more than he loves G-D or other people, and when people love things or power more than G-D or other people then they start doing a lot of wrong things."
I'm not sure my answer is making sense to her, since she keeps asking the question, but the more I think about it the more I think it's a pretty good answer. When you can love G-D and love others more than you love things or power then you can share, laugh, be gentle and humble, show compassion and demonstrate courage. You can be open, creative, loving and secure. When you love your things or your power the most then I think you become fearful and insecure, closed down in your heard, and then it's easy to be destructive, cold, proud and unkind. So I think I'll keep telling my daughter the Christmas story my way. And if she keeps asking about Herod, well, I hope that her question becomes that teaching moment that helps her choose love as a way of life.